Re: Reading 11 (Sartre)




I want to pick up on something Bunkerphil said in his post of Apr
28, about a "confusion ... in Heidegger's writing." I see one too, and
would like see if I can articulate something about it. There seems to
be some kind of hierarchy that Heidegger sets up, concerning, in
typical Heideggerian fashion, what metaphysics does not consider.

He says: "metaphysics does not ask about the truth of Being
itself. Nor does it ask in what way the essence of man belongs to
the truth of Being." (203) It occurs to me that this notion of
"belonging" should go the other way; or should I say "also go the
other way." If man is the ek-stasis of Being in the world (BT),
and Being is the element that enables thinking (196)
(understanding "element" as realm or sphere or ambit, in the sense
that water is the element not of fish as such but of their
swimming), and thinking accomplishes the relation of Being to the
essence of man, (193) then the essence of man belongs to Being,
and the return to Being (man returns to Being; Being has nothing
to return to) is thinking as claimed by Being. That is, Being is
that to which man returns, in order to live in the nameless; and
the essence of Man belongs to the truth of Being. But if all
metaphysics is a forgetting of Being through its focus on beings,
then a return to Being is a return to what humanitas would
signify in a sense anterior to metaphysics; and this would
signify in turn a sense of return in which Being belongs to the
essence of man. If thinking of Being is what the ontological
difference is to permit, as well as the deconstruction of
ontology, and this is to be accomplished in and through the being
for which Being is a question, then the truth of Being again
belongs to the essence of man. That is, the truth of Being is
brought back to what Dasein is. In this sense, the essence of man
is indistinguishable from being-for-itself, the being for which
being is in question. (BN)

The point here pertains to what someone pointed out earlier,
that Being seems to be given a certain agency, within Heidegger's
articulation. Thinking is claimed by Being; Being claims, or
reclaims. Only at the limit of the inarticulable is this "agency"
avoidable. But it is seemingly unavoidable even in an attempt to
articulate a structure of ideas that preserves the inarticulable.
The effect is to move this sense of the inarticulable over into
the quasi-religious, or the mystical. One could raise this as a
direct question, and a lot was written a few years ago on the
mystical element in Heidegger (see Caputo); but one could also
raise it politically.

Heidegger suggests that Holderlin does not seek the essence
of "homecoming" in "the egoism of his nation. He sees it rather
in the context of a belongingness to the destiny of the West"
(218). Shortly thereafter, Heidegger writes, ""German" is not
spoken to the world so that the world might be reformed through
the German essence; rather, it is spoken to the Germans so that
from a fateful belongingness to the nations they might become
world-historical with them. The homeland of this historical
dwelling is nearness to Being" (218). Is this the same
belongingness? If so, then the relation of Germany to "the
nations" becomes ambiguous, which is the element of which. In any
event, Heidegger has here expanded an allegiance (whether his or
Holderlin's is unclear) from Germany to the western legacy; and
in placing this legacy at the center of the "world-historic,"
could be understood as both supra-nationalist and imperialist, to
the extent that this "western legacy" is given a certain agency -
- which it is to the extent that Being is, to which the western
legacy is a nearness (ontologically, not topologically).

But then, in these terms, the West is posited by Heidegger
as being a certain avant-garde; it is that part of the world that
has led the way in penetrating closest to Being, getting nearest
to the source. Indeed, it is that Western egotism (as world-
historical) that also finds itself continually re-particularized
in the egotisms of the different European nations, as what we
know as nationalism. But here it is given a mythic source -- and
it is a short step to seeing the "world-spirit" as but the
contemporary avatar, or manifestation, of the "German spirit," as
it was posited in the rector's address (in the sense of
"belonging" going the other way). That is, at this level (of
spirit), the "belonging" that links Being to the essence of Man,
if it can be seen as going both ways, leaves open the possibility
of understanding the German spirit as Being itself, the element
in which the west thinks -- and so some people have thought since
the rise of German nationalism. Today, we, of course, would have
to ask the same mode of question now about US nationalism, in
this burgeoning era of the multinational corporation made
possible by the US having inherited the industrial world in the
wake of the war. Through the MNCs, does the US see itself as the
world-historical now? (I'm thinking of Somalia, Iraq, Haiti,
Nicaragua) And which way does this go? (I'm thinking of
consumerism, and NAFTA)

Ultimately, it is not the direction of belonging that needs
to be decided, but the significance of the structure that is
constituted by the appearance of a belonging that is ambiguous,
an inarticulability, and an unavoidable sense of agency therein,
in Heidegger's discourse. As soon as he moves over to a
discussion of "the west" and the "world-historical," this
structure starts to reveal some strange things.

Martinot



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